Did Robby Anderson hold the key to Sam Darnold trade?

(Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports) Sam Darnold and Robby Anderson
(Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports) Sam Darnold and Robby Anderson /

Did Carolina Panthers wide receiver Robby Anderson hold the key to the trade for quarterback Sam Darnold from the New York Jets?

There was plenty of speculation linking Sam Darnold with a move away from the New York Jets, which the Carolina Panthers finally pulled the trigger on to boost their options moving forward. The quarterback’s inconsistent time as a starter at MetLife Stadium left the organization with no alternative other than to take BYU phenom Zach Wilson at No. 2 overall later this month, which left the former first-round pick on the outside looking in heading into the final year of his rookie deal.

The Carolina Panthers were looking for a more viable long-term option at the position following Teddy Bridgewater’s disappointing first season under center. It wasn’t all the Louisville product’s fault by any stretch of the imagination. But going 0-8 on game-winning or tying drives is only going to get the team so far.

The asking price for Darnold was three draft picks this year and next. It makes a lot of sense in some ways as a low-risk, high reward solution to Carolina’s problem. But they no doubt sought the opinion of a player that worked with the signal-caller plenty before freeing himself from the Jets in free agency last year.

Sam Darnold and Robby Anderson have plenty of history.

Robby Anderson was arguably the signing of last year’s offseason period for the Panthers. The wide receiver hit the ground running with a series of exceptional displays that quickly removed the stigma of the player just being a deep threat that he acquired during his time in New York.

Anderson formed one of the NFL’s best tandems with D.J. Moore on the outside, although it didn’t come with anything like a postseason run thanks in no small part to the team’s failure to get things done down the stretch.

To say Anderson thrived during his first year in Carolina is an understatement and is further reflected by his outstanding stats from the 2020 campaign.

  • 95 receptions
  • 1,096 receiving yards
  • 3 touchdowns
  • 69.9 percent catch success
  • 1,111 yards from scrimmage
  • 497 yards after the catch
  • 6 drops (4.4%)
  • 75.1 Pro Football Focus grade

Matt Rhule thinks a lot of Anderson, of that there is little doubt. The pair worked closely together during their time in college together at Temple and judging by their comments during the season, this close bond has been a match made in heaven from a production standpoint.

The head coach wouldn’t have hesitated to ask Anderson his opinion on Darnold once the Panthers decided to go in this particular direction. He knows more about the signal-caller than most, so even though Rhule and general manager Scott Fitterer had the final say, this information could have made all the difference behind the move.

Considering the top-three quarterbacks will be gone in the first three picks after the San Francisco 49ers traded up, trading for Darnold was almost a necessity. Carolina couldn’t get left empty-handed if another team did a deal with the Atlanta Falcons at No. 4, so a contingency plan was made and executed quickly to get the USC product onboard.

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Anderson has thrived since leaving the Jets, where his full potential wasn’t ever realized. If Darnold could have similar success in a different environment, it could end up being a surprisingly shrewd pickup considering the compensation involved.